This Is What It Means If You See A Red Porch Light

When the calendar page flips to February each year, you may start to see red lights shining on your neighbors' porches. But what does this color change mean? It turns out that displaying a red porch light is a way to raise awareness for a good cause: heart health, Reader's Digest explains. 

February is American Heart Month, and has been since President Lyndon B. Johnson first named it so in 1964, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Because of this, AHA has organized the Go Red for Women initiative to raise awareness about the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. On the first Friday of February, AHA organizes National Wear Red day. 

"Coast to coast, landmarks, news anchors, and neighborhoods go red to raise awareness and support for the fight against heart disease," AHA says. 

In the past, landmarks like Seattle's Great Wheel and Niagara Falls have gone red to participate in this day in the past, according to Reader's Digest. By installing a red porch light, you can participate too. 

What that red porch light does — and doesn't — mean

In 2016, the website Immediate Safety posted an article claiming that anti-gun activists had begun installing red porch lights to announce that their homes were gun-free. The article referred to the trend as "red lighting." However, the trend was entirely made up, as Snopes confirmed. Close reading revealed that the article was clearly satirical. It quoted a Jane Seymore from the Department of Protecting Everyone (DOPE) and was written by a Dr. I.M. Swindler. Immediate Safety  does not claim to be satirical but it has published obviously outlandish articles like "Sewer Rats in Los Angeles Becoming Sentient," and "Surviving Alien Abduction: A Users Guide for 2016."

So if you see a red porch light, it's not about gun control. However, red porch lights can have other meanings beyond heart health, according to Restore, Decor, and More. They can also just be a decorative choice for Halloween or Valentine's Day. On May 4, which is International Firefighters Day, they also represent support for firefighters. 

Finally, some people associate red lights with prostitution, probably because of the phrase "red-light district," which refers to a neighborhood with lots of sex businesses. However, this association may now be a thing of the past.